Round Lake family gets a Christmas surprise following tragedy

The community gathered in support of Ty Olson's family Wednesday in Round Lake, bringing gifts and carols from the Worthington Best Christmas Ever initiative. Ty, 16, died of cancer on Dec. 14.

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The Round Lake Fire Department leads the volunteers of the Best Christmas Ever Worthington Wednesday evening down Main Street. Tim Middagh / The Globe

ROUND LAKE — A crowd of Santas gathered in front of the Round Lake fire hall Wednesday evening as part of their festive Christmas conspiracy to surprise one local family with some much-needed holiday cheer.

And it worked.

The efforts of the Best Christmas Ever volunteers came as a total surprise to Lori and Randy Olson, and their children Keira, 13, and Seth, 10, who met the crowd of Christmas well-wishers on their lawn.


“Thank you to everybody who did this,” Lori said. “We were completely shocked.”

Best Christmas Ever is a national nonprofit with many local branches, whose goal is to find a family experiencing hard times through no fault of their own and get that family five to 10 donated gifts as well as at least $5,000 in monetary support, which can be used for housing payments, home improvements and more.

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The Olson family receives gifts and support from the Worthington Best Christmas Ever volunteers Wednesday evening. Tim Middagh / The Globe

The Worthington Best Christmas Ever team started looking for nominations for a local family to help back in September, and Chastity Kolander of Pipestone nominated the Olsons.

The Olsons have indeed been going through an extremely difficult year. Their oldest son, Ty, was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma at age 13, and had gone through chemotherapy and radiation treatments to fight the rare and aggressive cancer.

Ty died on Dec. 14, at age 16. His memorial service was on Monday.

The community has rallied around the Olsons in support, and the gathering Wednesday evening reflected that, with about 30 people walking a block and a half from the fire hall to the Olson home, flanked by fire trucks with Christmas music blaring.


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The Round Lake Fire Department leads the Best Christmas Ever with festive red and white lights Wednesday evening down Main Street in Round Lake. Tim Middagh / The Globe

Randy Olson is on the Round Lake Fire Department, so the red-and-white flashing lights had the Olsons wondering if there was a fire nearby, and if so, why Randy’s pager hadn’t gone off.

Kolander asked them to grab their coats and come outside, and they did.

Amy Benson explained what was going on to the Olsons as they stood there, Lori still in her sandals. Many hugs followed, and a round of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” spontaneously broke out among the crowd.

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The Best Christmas Ever event surrounded the Olson family with neighbors and supporters Wednesday evening in Round Lake. Tim Middagh / The Globe

“I don’t even know how to describe (how I feel),” Lori said. “Excited, overwhelmed, grateful.”


“Very grateful,” Randy added.

Lori said she has felt the community support throughout Ty’s experience, and asked that people pray for the Olson children as they try to come to terms with what happened.

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The volunteers of the Worthington Best Christmas Ever surround the Olson family with neighbors and supporters Wednesday evening in front of their Round Lake home. Tim Middagh / The Globe

For more information or to donate, visit

A 1999 graduate of Jackson County Central and a 2003 graduate of Augsburg College, Kari Lucin started writing for newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota in 2006. During her time as a reporter, she covered beats including education, watershed, county and agriculture, and frequently wrote about health and science. She has also served as an online content coordinator and an engagement specialist at various Forum Communications properties. She was a marketing assistant at Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville for two years, where she did design work in addition to writing and social media management.

Lucin is currently a community editor with the Globe of Worthington.

Phone: (507) 376-7319
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